Overcoming “Not Enoughness”

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Several years ago, we asked thousands of people from all across the world to pray for a very sick newborn child. We hoped with all our hearts that God would perform a miracle. But when my best friend’s curly-headed baby boy died in her arms, she was launched into a season of incapacitating sorrow. God has since blessed her and her husband with more beautiful children, and they have known joy since that awful day. But even so, there remains a dull and daily grief at the back of her throat, in the bottom of her heart, at the site of her C-section scar.

Sometimes our callings from God are discovered through our passions and giftedness. Other times, vocations are birthed through tragedy and pain. As other women in our community or on Facebook have lost children or struggled with infertility, my friend, Jenn, has felt called by God to reach out to them. She is the first to say a prayer, write a handwritten card, or deliver a gift basket—sometimes without anyone knowing it’s her. She is a living example of ministry borne from misery, vocation from vulnerability.

I write about vocation in my book Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding your Soul (Zondervan 2015), and the difficulty about the topic—for those who have spent years shrouded in shame or other emotional pain— is that it doesn’t seem possible that God could have designed you for something, especially when you’ve been dealt your fair share of tragedy. When we experience shame (that feeling of “not enoughness”), the agonizing emotion makes us question our ability to be a good enough anything—friend, date, spouse, parent, even child of God. And if we aren’t adequate in our own roles, how can God have actually called us to do something that involves ministering to others?

Shame may want us to believe that our brokenness, pain, or past disqualify us from being used by God. But the opposite is actually true. You have a contribution to make to the world and to others, because of what you’ve been through. It is because you have battled, because you have scars, because you have suffered that you have something to offer. If you have known shame and pain, there is no one more qualified than you to show the compassion of God to other hurting souls. While my friend may not have been dealing with shame, per se, she has poured herself out from one the most difficult experiences of her life. How might we do the same?

If we take a step back, identifying our vocations, while not always easy, can be a pretty straightforward process. God uses those things that have shaped our lives—good and bad—to help us care for others. “God designed and equipped each of us, “writes Bible teacher Christine Caine, “for the purpose of working through us to touch a lost and broken world.”

If you’ve been wrestling with shame, and as a result, with what God has created you to do, set aside time to reflect on the follow-up questions below. If you find it helpful, consider writing your responses in a journal as an additional means of reflection.

  1. What do I wish, more than anything, to see God do through me?
  2. What, if I did it, would make a real difference in my community, or in the world?
  3. If I could describe myself in ten years, what kind of woman do I hope to be? What do I want to be doing?
  4. If I had to determine one or two defining moments in life—things that have shaped me—what would I choose? How can I help others who’ve been through something similar?
  5. What are the big, even secret, dreams I’ve had since childhood?
  6. How would I use my time and resources if they were unlimited?

After working through the reflection questions, ask God to help you recognize the ways in which he is already at work in your life. Of course be tender and gentle with yourself while you process your own pain. But as you are ready, begin asking God how he might transform that pain into purpose.

Six months after Jenn’s beloved son died, mine was born. She visited me in the hospital and held my baby boy in the very same room where she was forced to release hers. She prayed for me, celebrated with me, cried with me. It was a painful irony, and yet she bore it with absolute courage. Whether or not she realizes it, Jenn has become a living portrait of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “If you spend yourself on behalf of others, your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (Isa. 58:10).

The power of vocation is such that as you pursue what God has uniquely called and created you to do, he will make all things—even the dark things—beautiful in you and through you.

A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey’s first book, Overcomer, is available for pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Books, and ibooks.

(Sections taken from Overcomer by Aubrey Sampson. Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.)

Aubrey Sampson

Writer and Speaker at Aubrey Sampson
Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women to experience freedom from shame. She is a pastor's wife, a church planter, a ministry event speaker, and a stay-at-home-mom to three sons (which is to say she spends most days in her pajamas drinking too much coffee).

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  • SO happy to see your words here. They are words so many need to hear, that I need to hear over and over again. I will be journaling these questions this week. Thank you for helping others press into pushing back the darkness!

    • Aubrey Sampson

      Thanks Nicole- love you girl! Push back the darkness- amen!

  • Terri

    Dear Aubrey, this has me in tears this morning. My eldest son died in a single vehicle accident five years ago. We heard a speaker at a bereaved parents conference share something a mentor had told him after the death of his son, “People who have experienced tragedy have the ability to do and say great things.” I pushed that away, the price too high, it almost felt like a gain from the most horrific thing imaginable. Then another dad shared that when we can, and it will be years later, we can turn that loss into legacy and reach out our hands to those in darkness. I am going to work through your reflections. I do have a dream, a dream where the grieving can find safe haven within their faith community and not made to feel shame for their grief.

    You touched my heart this morning, thank you. Wishing you a peace filled day.

    • Laura

      I am so very sorry, Terri, to read of the loss of your precious son. May the God of all comfort hold you close today and grant you an extra measure of faith, strength, and hope. I am praying for you.

    • Aubrey Sampson

      Terri,
      You have touched my heart as well. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious son. I am praying that God will be tender and present with you in very intimate ways as you continue to grieve. I believe in your dream and know so many who would benefit from it. grace and peace to you, my friend. Aubrey S.

  • Thank you for sharing this story and giving us the challenge to reflect on our pain and what purpose God may have for it. It was difficult to reflect on these questions today, but a good difficult. I don’t know if I completely have worked through it but it has helped put focus and purpose in my prayers for myself. Lately, God has seemed to constantly keep me in the conversation of vocation and using the pain I’ve experienced to meet a greater need in our world. I don’t know what that is exactly but I thank you for sharing this as it too was another “nudge” from the Lord.

    • Aubrey Sampson

      So glad God is nudging you! I’ll be praying for you as you process what that “nudge” is leading to!

  • Rea

    Such excellent questions. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about vocation and what it is that I really want to do with my life. (You’d think by 48 I’d have that figured out…not so much. Or perhaps I’m just too timid to move into what I want.) I keep thinking ‘yes, but I don’t have any big, defining moments of pain’. And then I think about a childhood, a life-time, of feeling ‘less than’. Of wanting to measure up to the ‘cool girl’s’ mark, God’s mark, my family’s mark and always feeling that I’ve fallen short. And for years I have passionately wanted to say to women, to girls…”You matter. You matter. You matter. You don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to wear the right things, you don’t have to have the cleanest house or the most successful children. You don’t have to be artistic or crafty or athletic. Just be 100% authentically you and know that you are loved.” I still don’t know exactly how that will happen, but it stirs my soul so much more than anything else does.

    • Aubrey Sampson

      Rea,
      I know so many girls who need to hear those truths! I am praying that God will use you to speak truth to the next generation. Thank you for letting this issue stir your soul.

  • Aubrey, thanks for your leading questions here. So many of us (all!) wrestle with shame and not-enoughness. Thank you for your words of hope.

    • Aubrey Sampson

      Ashley, Thank you so much! We all do struggle with this, don’t we?

  • “Sometimes our callings from God are discovered through our passions and giftedness. Other times, vocations are birthed through tragedy and pain.” No matter what we’ve been through God can use our stories to help others.”God uses those things that have shaped our lives—good and bad—to help us care for others.” I think we do find our callings through the experiences we go through, but we don’t always recognize what we are to do or even if our stories are needed. I have not really been struggling with shame, etc, but I copied your questions to go over later because I think they will be helpful to reflect on. Blessings to you!